Monday, March 12, 2012

The Dollhouse Magic (MG)

The Dollhouse Magic. Yona Zeldis McDonough. Illustrated by Diane Palmisciano. 2000. Henry Holt. 86 pages.

Of all the streets in town, Lila and Jane Finney like Cheshire the very best. It's not because of the large old oaks whose spreading branches arch and nearly meet in the air, creating, in spring and summer, a most beguiling canopy overhead. Nor is it the well-tended flower beds, though these are filled with an ongoing seasonal display: tulips and daffodils in spring; roses, lilies, and marigolds in summer; asters and mums in the fall. It is not even because of the way the street ends in a lush, grassy circle, in the center of which is a handsomely carved old stone fountain. No, as attractive as all these things are, what Lila and Jane love most is a house on Cheshire Street, a three-story dollhouse with real clapboard siding and a cedar shingle roof that sits in Miss Amanda Whitcomb's front window. 

It all depends on your expectations. On what you want this one to be. Is that fair to a book? Well, I'm not sure it is. But it's one of those things that just happens naturally.

So The Dollhouse Magic is historical fiction for young readers. (I'm thinking second to fourth graders, though that all depends on reading levels of course.) The Dollhouse Magic is set during the Great Depression (1930s). Readers are introduced to two sisters, Lila and Jane, there are other siblings in the family, but Lila and Jane are the stars of this one. The book is about their "adventures" visiting Miss Amanda Whitcomb's dollhouse. It definitely IS an adventure for them. It's quite a thrill to be allowed to play with this dollhouse, to look at all the furniture and dolls. And the dollhouse is perhaps the main attraction at the beginning, but, the two do become very friendly with this old woman. They enjoy the treats she shares. Perhaps they don't realize just how special she is...until...well, you can guess what happens next.

What I didn't quite like about The Dollhouse Magic is how manipulative it is. Yes, I know that people die. I know that is natural. And yes, I know that people even die on Christmas Eve. But. Why oh why oh why does it have to happen in this happy little book...especially without any warning. It's not like we see Miss Whitcomb getting weak or sick. It just didn't seem fair or right.

I would have HATED this ending as a kid. I would have. I'm not all that fond of it as an adult. So my question for you is this... if a character is going to die in a book, do you want some foreshadowing or hinting along the way? Do you want or need time to prepare? Or do you like being surprised? Should sad books come with warnings?

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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